by Brian on December 9, 2003

David Brooks, who lives in Washington, DC (and has done so for decades I’d guess), attacks Howard Dean, who has lived and worked in Vermont for decades, for describing himself as ‘rural’. Brooks, all the while, is happy to apply that term to himself (perhaps sarcastically). I think Brooks’s view (as far as one can ever read a coherent view into David Brooks) is that where one lived at age 7 is the sole determiner of the appropriateness of this kind of geographic classification. That’s a view, I guess, but not a very plausible one. I don’t have any particular fondness for Dean, but ‘attacks’ like this only make him look good.

(UPDATE: I see Josh Marshall had this one 30 minutes before I did – and with actual data to back up his claims. I should not try and compete with real journalists.)



chun the unavoidable 12.09.03 at 5:54 am

I hereby endorse Howard Dean.


Katherine 12.09.03 at 5:59 am

Brooks’ blinding, all-consuming hatred of Dean has made him unable to see reason and coarsened his political discourse.

Wow, this is easy!

Actually, Brooks, as a sociologist, knows that rural American is hardworking, humble before God, socially conservative, and Bush-supporting, and they shop at Wal-Mart (and as Jesse Taylor would say) they drive like THIS. Vermont is socially liberal, not particularly religious, Dean supporting, and they try to prevent too many Walmarts from being built, and they drive like THAT. So Vermont could not possibly be rural.

David Brooks really annoys the crap out of me, in case you couldn’t tell.


Matt Weiner 12.09.03 at 6:37 am

Parlor game: Change every occurrence of “Howard Dean” to “George W. Bush.” How many other words do you have to change to make the whole column true? And I don’t mean inserting “not.”


jason 12.09.03 at 6:55 am

i think this is silly. but if you did take him to be correct you would have to apply it to bush. in fact, “rural” would have to replaced with “hick.”

i think it’s nonsense.


Doug 12.09.03 at 7:27 am

Just helping polish Dean’s Teflon.

The campaign will be long and tough, but it could have a very nice ending…


Peter Murphy 12.09.03 at 8:28 am

Did Dean really call Congress “a bunch of cockroaches”, as Brooks alleges in the article? No. His exact quote was:

Howard Dean, who is increasingly giving his presidential candidacy an anti-Washington cast, cranked up his rhetoric on Tuesday, saying that if he won, members of Congress were “going to be scurrying for shelter, just like a giant flashlight on a bunch of cockroaches.”

There’s a difference between straight out name-calling, and a nasty if unfortunately understandable metaphor. (I’m thinking of Tom DeLay at this point, for some reason.) Brooks, despite his undoubtable stellar salary as a columnist, seems unable or unwilling to distinguish this.

Brooks has created his own little niche in the competitive field of dishonest journalism, Unlike others, he generally doesn’t lie outright. Instead, he has the genius for telling part of the story in a reasonable tone. By sheer coincidence, this portion always seems to serve the talking points of Republicans.


Ted Barlow 12.09.03 at 3:15 pm

I don’t know what it is with the Times; the Washington Post is, column-for-column, a much better editorial page. I don’t understand how, out of the thousands of professionals and the hundreds of thousands of people doing this for free, they chose David Brooks and Maureen Dowd.


Matt 12.09.03 at 4:21 pm

In his essay a couple of years ago (the red-blue one in Atlantic Monthly) Brooks fessed up to living in Bethesda, & not in the District.


Brian Weatherson 12.09.03 at 5:04 pm

My bad. I should have known relying on out of date info would lead to problems. Having said that, which of Bethesda and Montpellier seems more rural? Hmm, that’s tough.


Redshift 12.09.03 at 5:51 pm

Don’t sweat it. I’ve lived in the DC area all my life, and no one who’s from here would fault you for saying that someone in Bethesday “lives in DC”. Bethesda is an urban inner suburb, just over the DC line, and if DC were an ordinary city, rather than one with boundaries fixed by federal law, Bethesda (and plenty of other suburbs) would have long since been absorbed into the city.


JP 12.09.03 at 7:03 pm

Didn’t Brooks live in Europe for most of the ’90s? I vaguely remember him saying something like that in Bobos in Paradise.


Jim Miller 12.09.03 at 8:58 pm

Three comments:

1. As someone who grew up on a farm, I can tell you that no one who really is “rural” would think of Dean as “rural”. If Dean believes that, he is deluded.

2. No one I knew in rural areas talked like Dean.

3. Brian should not worry about competing with Josh Marshall, judging by that sample. Census data does not reveal as much as Marshall thinks about “rural”. As the 2000 edition of the Almanac of American Politics explains, Vermont “has attracted left leaning migrants from New York and elsewhere”, city folk, in other words. Like Dean.

Since the people on this site claim expertise on political philosphy, I will leave you with this question: Dean and his followers emphasize feelings over thought. What 20th century political movement is most famous for that?


Darin 12.09.03 at 10:43 pm

Give me a break!! Brooks was being sarcastic when he called himself “rural” and if you ever read his columns without an enormous chip on your shoulder you would have picked up on that. Lighten up people.

And for the record, while Vermonters certainly respect and like Dean (or at least a majority does) I can tell you that native Vermonters would not describe him as rural. He is a “flatlander.”


Katherine 12.09.03 at 11:05 pm

Right, the old New England joke: kid moves into town as a two year old, goes to one room school house, marries high school sweetheart, becomes a dairy farmer or something equally salt-of-the-earth, lives there the length of his days. On his tombstone it says “Dearly Beloved, Though a Stranger Among Us.”

But rural does not mean “as far removed in every way possible from New York City”. It has something to do with population density.

Brooks has made a career of trivializing and stereotyping people like me so that our opinions may be more easily dismissed. It’s bad sociology, lazy writing and it’s deeply cynical.

I do have a chip on my shoulder about this, but it grew here for a reason.


Jeffrey Kramer 12.10.03 at 2:14 am

“Dean and his followers emphasize feelings over thought. What 20th century political movement is most famous for that?”

Compassionate conservatism?


PG 12.11.03 at 10:37 pm

I’m still pissed that people refer to President Bush as a Texan.
He was born in New Haven, CT, one of the Yankee-est places on earth. He went to Andover, not a high school that took football more seriously than academics. He went to Yale, not A&M. He went to Harvard Business School because he couldn’t get into UT Law.
He screwed over the Texas Rangers by trading Sosa, and the city of Arlington by having them pay for a ballpark. I’m not even going to start on what his tax cuts did to the budget.

If Bush is a Texan, who needs carpetbaggers?

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